Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 February 2022:
Yesterday, Thursday 17 February, President Dr Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone spoke about sustainable ways of achieving long term development in his country, as one of four keynote speakers at this year’s EU-AU Summit.
Other speakers were President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini of the Kingdom of Eswatini and Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva of Cape Verde.
“In Sierra Leone, over the last four years, my leadership has been driven by that mindset – that there are better, more innovative, and more sustainable ways of achieving long-term sustainable development — a new direction.
“We believe that by investing in people – human capital development – we will be able to achieve accelerated and sustainable gains in all facets of our social and economic development. We believe that by investing in quality education, accessible and quality healthcare, food security, and critical infrastructure, Sierra Leone will be a more productive, more resilient, and a more prosperous nation,” he said.
The President, however, noted that in spite of the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on economies around the world, his government has kept the faith and made laudable gains that are now being recognised globally by international partners.
He added that in four years of his leadership more children, and especially girls, children with disabilities, children from poor homes and rural areas are now in school, and are more likely to stay in school, complete and become more successful in school than ever before.
“We have escalated investments in school infrastructure, school feeding, teacher training, and teaching and learning materials. As a result of our policy of radical inclusion, our fight against sexual and gender-based violence, and the First Lady’s successful advocacy against early child marriage and other cultural practices, school is now a safer place where every child can work hard to reach his or her fullest potential,” he said.
President Bio further recalled that since he assumed office in 2018, his government has increased our investment in healthcare from a mere 6% to more than 11.6% of GDP, adding that his government has also expanded Primary Health Care facilities to 1,500, spread throughout the country.
He said that most citizens have access to a health facility within a five-mile radius of where they live but emphasised that there is need to sustain those successes.
“Permit me to briefly discuss some of several possibilities and opportunities in Sierra Leone. We recognise that for health resilience to take deep root, we must establish a pharmaceutical sector in Sierra Leone. At the moment, Sierra Leone does not manufacture pharmaceutical products. All essential drugs and non-essential drugs are imported. The country spends over $250 million a year on imported pharmaceutical products.
“There is also a very lucrative Mano River Union and sub-regional West African market. Local pharmaceutical production capacity, especially of essential drugs, will enhance health resilience in Sierra Leone and also serve the sub-regional market.
“Other opportunities for exploring a PPP model include the construction and operation of new hospitals using private finance. We have existing or just-concluded partnerships with interested parties to build and operate up to 5 new 150-300-bed multi-specialty hospitals on a PPP model.
“There is also an opportunity to invest in a budding national health insurance program, the Sierra Leone Social Health Insurance. With potential across the formal and informal sectors, there are opportunities for capital investments in developing and operating parts of this new market that we will launch sometime this year,” he concluded.